|Volume 18 Number 11 November 2016||
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Late one night recently, I was rinsing off (pre-washing) a few things in the kitchen sink before placing them in the dishwasher. I don’t like to leave dirty dishes and the like in the kitchen when I retire for the evening and go to bed. I’m like that about a lot of things. Several years ago when working with a congregation and while I was teaching an auditorium class, I used myself as an illustration. I was conveying my daughter’s book about the four basic personality types – their strengths, weaknesses, biblical characters who seemed to have the various personalities and how we ought to make self-improvements. I remember my illustration and the reaction that it drew from one elderly sister in Christ. I said that if my shoes weren’t lined up in the closet before I went to bed that I couldn’t sleep at night; it was somewhat of an exaggeration for the purpose of emphasis, but not far from fact. The old sister belted out from the back of the room, “You’re Weird!” Quite possibly, she and I represented two of those four different personality types.
Anyway, in passing empty glasses, plates and tableware through my hands under the water before placing them in the dishwasher, I paused and reflected upon the butter knife that I was holding. It was shiny, metal, solid and real, as one might observe in contrast to disposable utensils or even less tangible items like thoughts or the wind. As physical and concretely existing as I found the butter knife over which I was pondering, it occurred to me that the time was coming when not the butter knife or anything else in this terrestrial world would be real or even exist any longer.
When there are no more days because there is no more earth, moon, sun or universe (2 Peter 3:10), neither will there be any longer grief, sorrow, pain, death and crying (Revelation 21:4). “The last enemy that will be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:26 NKJV). Not even our bodies as we presently know them will persist after what we now call “real” no longer really matters.
So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” …thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 15:54-58)
Despite clutching that hard, steel butter knife, more durable is the invisible soul within me, as well as the souls within every other human inhabitant on planet earth (Ecclesiastes 12:7). In fact, just one soul is more precious than amassed into a single lump all of the material prosperity of this sphere that we mortals call home (Matthew 16:26). Especially “…since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness?” (2 Peter 3:11). Where should the children of God place the focus of their lives? “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:11-13). Yes, we would do well to be “looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because… the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat” (2 Peter 3:12).
Dear Reader, what is more real to you, a butter knife and such, or things eternal? Have you prioritized your life to seek the kingdom of God foremost (Matthew 6:33)? Do your friends, family, coworkers or classmates perceive that you are a Christian pilgrim on a spiritual journey, daily trudging onward and upward toward a city “whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10)? The true purpose of our lives is manifest in our speech, in our actions, by in what we invest our time and by on what we spend our money.
A thousand thousand years from now, that butter knife, if I recall it at all, will be merely a dim memory – representative of what I once thought was real as I squeezed it in my hand on one lonely, melancholy evening. From where, though, will I be should that reminiscent thought pop into my consciousness – in heaven with God or in hell separated from God (Matthew 25:46; 2 Thessalonians 1:9)? Dear Reader, where will you be?
Where to Sit in the Church
Rodney Nulph, Associate Editor
Pride can be found in the most saintly of places. Pride and arrogance are not sins just for the heathen, but sadly, they are often common among “religious” folks. Some erroneously look at the church through the eyes of the corporate world with a promotion based mentality. The idea is that the longer I am in the church, the higher I climb in “the corporation.” While that may be true in the business world, it is the exact opposite among the Lord’s disciples. Matthew records an incident (20:20-28) that well illustrates this fact. The incident in our text deals with the age-old problem of “position."
Firstly, consider the people (Matthew 20:20-21). Zebedee’s wife came asking that her two sons be granted positions in the Lord’s kingdom. Of course, these two sons were none other than James and John. Scripture teaches that the kingdom and the church are the same entity (Matthew 16:18-19; Colossians 1:13), so what this mother was asking was for a special place in the church for her two sons. Sadly, like many, she was looking at the church through carnal eyes instead of through spiritual eyes. The church is so often misunderstood by many who should know better. There are no human positions in the Lord’s church! Christ is the Head (Colossians 1:18), and every Christian is equally under that authoritative head.
Secondly, consider the prediction (Matthew 20:22-23). The Lord’s response was certainly not what this family was expecting to hear. “…Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” The word “cup” among the Hebrews meant a portion assigned (Psalms 16:5; 23:5), whether of pleasure or of sorrow. Yet, the idea of sorrow usually predominated (Matthew 26:39, 42; Revelation 14:10; 16:19; 18:6; Psalm 75:8; Isaiah 51:17; Jeremiah 25:15). The idea of “baptism” means an “immersion” or “overwhelming,” here referring to being overwhelmed or immersed (completely covered) in suffering and pain. We understand that both James and John experienced this as Jesus predicted (Matthew 20:23; Acts 12:2; Revelation 1:9).
Thirdly we see the problem (Matthew 20:24). Pride and arrogance always causes turmoil. Although the other disciples became angry with this request, they too were guilty of the same mentality (Matthew 18:1).
Fourthly, note the paradox (Matthew 20:25-27). The world’s standard for greatness is not God’s standard! In God’s view, true greatness does not consist of being president, a general, a famous athlete, winning a war or being the victor in some prestigious sport. True greatness has to do with character – not position! “Minister” literally means to raise dust by one’s hurry, and “servant” literally means to be a slave! Greatness in the world is having many servants; greatness in God’s sight is serving.
Lastly, Jesus gave the paradigm (Matthew 20:28). As high and holy as Jesus is and was, He never demanded to be served. He served! Those who walk after Him must also serve (1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 2:6). If anyone deserved to be served, it surely was the Founder of the church. Each Christian is merely a servant, nothing more, nothing less. Even if we have done everything commanded for us to do, we are still “unprofitable servants” (Luke 17:10).
Therefore, where should we sit in the church? The church is not about position and prestige, but it involves humility and serving. We do not climb the ladder among God’s people, but we descend to our knees and humbly serve the Lord. Where do you sit in the church?
[Editor’s Note: Generally, each child of God is the same (Galatians 3:27-28). Specifically, each child of God may possess differing abilities and corresponding responsibilities (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). In addition, some church members have certain responsibilities related to a particular function or a role (1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11-12). Yet, not even brethren occupying these roles are to distance themselves from fellow Christians through pride and arrogance (1 Peter 5:1-3). Overall, it remains that “we are brethren” (Genesis 13:8). Each Christian ought to be a servant, which when each serves, the body of Christ is spiritually coordinated and fruitful. ~ Louis Rushmore, Editor]